USA Wine West, LLC

USA Wine West at Prowein

ProWein Attendance Up 5 Percent from 2010
by David Furer
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Over 3,600 exhibitors from 50+ countries plied their goods March 6-8 at what's become Europe's most important annual trade fair, Germany's ProWein. Under mild & sunny skies approximately 38,000 trade members, up 5% from 2010 according to event organizers, roamed the halls of Messe Düsseldorf. MD also reported increased interest from Great Britain, Scandinavia, the US, Canada, and Eastern Europe adding that over 80% of all visitors possessed decision-making power.

Steve Melchiskey of USA Wine West, an import & distribution service based in Maine, detailed the vagaries of selling into the US to a dozen eager potential exporters.
Steve Melchiskey of USA Wine West, an import & distribution service based in Maine, detailed the vagaries of selling into the US to a dozen eager potential exporters. "You can't just walk into a restaurant or retail chain and sell your wine because you may need to have a wholesaler in every market they're in." He demonstrated how an ex-cellar €2.50 bottle would end up being on a store shelf at $11.99 and one of €7 at $29. "If we can condense the import tier with the wholesale one, such as may be done in California and Illinois, it helps to keep your prices down when reaching consumers," he added. New Italian-Armenian winery owner Zorik Gharibian walked away with a new understanding of the US market. Melchiskey's colleague Jennifer Ely was on hand to tell him that "restaurant chains will also help condense the tiers by simultaneously negotiating with the distributors and suppliers."

Dropping in on some Pacific Northwest producers Alex Sokol Blosser optimistically enthused, "I came here specifically seeking an importer for Germany. Those I've met have been very cautious so it's going to take some time. We're going out on a limb but we'll see what happens." With the UK between here and home, "I'll be flying to London on the way home to work our market there." Butch Millbrandt of Washington has found that, "people are on-point and want to do business at ProWein," echoing sentiments others expressed. "I've had quite a few leads for Finland, Holland, and Scandinavia."

"Prowein has now become our most important trade fair for Europe," said Alan K. Portney, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates' VP for International Sales. "We met with over 30 of our European distributors over the three days. If it were to be scheduled a week or two earlier with an added fourth day it would even better. Many importers look to finalize their portfolios by April 1st so this is why earlier is better." Portney encourages his Northwest colleagues to invest more generic funds in ProWein. "Perhaps other boards like New York's would like to partner with us so we could have a greater USA presence much like you see the flags of other countries on the exhibition floor."

Honore Comfort of the Sonoma County Vintner's Association
leading a seminar
Several presentations attracted a diverse range of Europeans and others. Honore Comfort of the Sonoma County Vintner's Association explained how much the marine uplift and other climatic factors, along with how plate tectonics influenced soil differentiation, to impact growing in her seminar 'Elegant Rhone Varieties'. In it she shared Syrahs from Buena Vista, Ramey, Novy Family, and Joseph Swan. "In the US it's often referred to as a 'winemaker's wine', challenging to produce and sell these in our home market so we're happy to bring them here to people who understand this grape better."

Ridge's winemaker Eric Baugher was stalwart on his second day standing, "it's been a lot of work pouring so many bottles and doing a couple of seminars here for ZAP." As it didn't make the full rounds for 2011's ZAP tastings Ridge seems to be somewhat targeting Europe for Zin than over its home country.

Your correspondent was corralled at late notice to moderate a panel presentation on 'Sustainability in the New World' featuring Cristian Rodriguez of Familia Emiliana, Peter Yealands of New Zealand's Marlborough region, Don Tooth of South Africa's Vergelegen estate, and Camille Seghesio of her family's Sonoma County winery. The daily 'Discovering the New World' seminars included participation from the above countries along with Argentina, with each seminar's attendees numbering from 20-40.

Hundreds of other European wineries big and small were represented at ProWein. One of the larger, Gonzalez-Byass group of wineries, was represented by family member Victoria Gonzalez-Gordon. She was impressed both by the number and quality of the visitors while the organization "was the most exacting of any I've recently attended."

As for the Germans themselves the shared corner stand of the Mosel's Molitor, Saar's Van Volxem, and Baden's Ziereisen was crowded from open to close with fans and buyers alike. Any from the US? "Our importer Schmitt-Söhne and we met to plan for the remainder of 2011," said Molitor's outgoing sales & marketing manager Anna Reimann. After years of working with Riesling, "we've reached our goals," asserted the German Wine Institute's Steffen Schindler. "Now's the time for other things from Germany. We're the third largest producer of Pinot Noir in the world and are doing well with Pinots Blanc and Gris" said the DWI's marketing director. "That's what we're here for; in the coming years our dream team for the US and elsewhere will be Riesling and Pinot Noir."

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